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Llewelyn Powys Biography

(1884–1939), Skin for Skin, New York Evening Post, Ebony and Ivory, Black Laughter, Earth Memories

British essayist, born in Dorchester, the brother of J. C. Powys and T. F. Powys, educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. In 1909 he learned he was suffering from tuberculosis and entered a sanitorium in Davos-Platz, Switzerland; his illness is memorably dealt with in Skin for Skin (1925). He subsequently travelled in Europe and began a period as a farmer in Kenya in 1914. From 1920 to 1928 he lived mainly in New York and California; his essays on African subjects for the New York Evening Post, together with earlier work, provided material for Ebony and Ivory (1923) and Black Laughter (1924). Much of his later writing reflected his extensive travelling in Europe, Palestine, and the West Indies. His further collections of essays include Earth Memories (1930), A Pagan's Pilgrimage (1931), Dorset Essays (1935), and Swiss Essays (1947), which contain much highly evocative topographical writing. He also wrote numerous books presenting his unorthodox religious and philosophical views: The Pathetic Fallacy (1930) accuses the Church of distorting Christ's teachings, while Impassioned Clay (1931) and Damnable Opinions (1935) express his idealistically materialist belief that the purpose of life lies in the attainment of happiness. He returned to the sanitorium in Davos-Platz for the last three years of his life, anticipating his death in the lyrical ‘imaginary autobiography’ Love and Death (1939). His other works include the novel Apples Be Ripe (1930) and The Cradle of God (1929), an idiosyncratic interpretation of the Old Testament. His Letters (1943) are edited by Louis Wilkinson; there is a biography by Malcolm Elwin (1946).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog to Rabbit Tetralogy